How divorce attorneys bill

Many people come to me after being dissatisfied with the first attorney they chose.  Amazingly, many people have no idea how much money they spent with that attorney as they have not received any updates since the case started (probably one of the many reasons they are in my office).  I am also amazed by the amount of people that have no idea how attorneys bill.  Hopefully, this article will clear up the confusion.

No flat rates

In New Jersey, attorneys cannot charge flat rates for divorce cases (and related matters) because flat rates are non-refundable.  Instead, we set a retainer which is a fancy word for a credit that you have with that attorney’s office.  I tell all of my clients that the retainer is not an estimate.  So, just because I charge one retainer, do not expect that it will exceed it or that it won’t. 

Trust Accounts

Since your retainer is a credit, it is not spent until it is earned.  Thus, all of your initial retainer is put into a trust account.  It is then moved into the business account as it is used up.  At the end of the case, any money left in the trust account is returned to the client.   In New Jersey, it seems that most attorneys start divorce retainers at $5000.  At my firm, we start most retainers at well under $5000 and settle a majority of our cases for under $5,000.

Hourly Rates

Attorneys charge hourly rates for just about everything done on the case.  Hourly rates vary depending on location, experience and other factors.  In New Jersey, the average hourly rate for a divorce attorney is  about $350 an hour.  Time is billed in either tenths of an hour or quarter hours.  For example, a 2 minute phone call is billed at 0.1 while a 6 minute, 30 second call is billed at 0.2.  With quarter hour billing a 2 minute call or a 14 minute call is billed at 0.25.  My firm bills by tenths of an hour.

Assume that all time will be billed. This includes court time, phone calls, reading letters, typing letters, research, etc.  I know it sounds like a lot and it can add up quickly.  However, a good attorney can draw on past experience to get a lot done in a short amount of time.  That is how I am able to settle so many of my cases for under $5,000.

Monthly statements

At my firm, we send out monthly statements for just about every case each month along with a letter to let you know how much of your retainer is remaining.  Thus, my clients do not have to be in the dark with regard to how much their divorce is costing them.  I’ve heard clients tell me that their prior attorneys would never send them a bill until the end of the case when they were surprised with a huge bill that needed to be paid right away!

If you are ready to divorce different, call Jef Henninger, Esq today.  Jef can represent you in any court in New Jersey including New Brunswick, Somerville and Elizabeth.

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Posted on December 30, 2009, in Articles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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